President Hollande, respond to an ‘act of war’ by going to war
by Abdallah Schleifer
President Hollande has got it right. The coordinated attacks in Paris are “an act of war.” I would suggest to the president that the correct response to an act of war is to go to war.
That means a full declaration of war against ISIS. This is not the nebulous, undefined never-ending “war against terrorism” that former President George Bush had launched, in what should have been a declaration of war against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. That war turned into an Iraq invasion, which turned Iraq into a magnet for militants from all over the world and most particularly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his followers who would become al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM). It operated with such brutality against the Shiites that even al-Qaeda central command was a bit dismayed. The AQM is the Godfather of ISIS.
Indeed, ISIS is now a state, with significant conquered territory; it has a capital—the Syrian city of Raqqa. It is a particularly vicious terrorist state, but above all else it is a state. And it has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, promising more are to come. Friday night in Paris, according to ISIS, was the “first of the storm” to come.
So the French state has every right—one might say a duty—to respond to this act of war by declaring war. That means immediately mobilizing its Special Forces and paratroopers with the cover of a protective shield provided by the French Air Force, to attack and overtake ISIS territory. This could mean contact with the Russians to secure landing permission to fly all available transport planes loaded with additional infantry as well as artillery and tanks into the Russian controlled and expanded airport in Syria’s Latakia.
What about the French Muslims, who are predominantly Franco-Algerian? This is somewhat reminiscent of American history. Japanese-Americans during World War II were subject to far worse prejudice and deprivation than anything the Franco-Algerians have faced until now, in my opinion. Long obsessed by the “Yellow Peril” anti-Asian propaganda, the U.S government authorized the internment of nearly the entire Japanese-American community on the West Coast into camps and the confiscation of their property in the wake of the Japanese Imperial Navy and Air Force’s stunning attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and America’s declaration of war against Japan.
This was racist-inspired injustice - there was no known organized movement among Japanese Americans in sympathy with Imperial Japan. Whereas on the East Coast the Nazi Bund had organized elements within the German-American community and held rallies in the late 1930s featuring Nazi chants and Nazi salutes to giant pictures of Adolph Hitler, yet none of the German-American community were interned or suffered the loss of their property.
But the response of several second generation (born in America) Japanese-Americans was extraordinary—they volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army forming at first the 100th Infantry Battalion and then the larger 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which absorbed the survivors of the battle-hardened 100th Battalion.
This unit, the 442nd Regiment fought so ferociously against German forces in Italy, then in France and finally in southern Germany that it would become the most decorated unit in the history of the American Army. The Regiment took a record number of casualties and it was obvious to all that their fighting spirit was inspired by the desire to prove their loyalty as Americans. Other Japanese-Americans served in U.S. Army units as translators and in military intelligence units in the Pacific theatre of war where they directly fought against the troops of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Today Japanese Americans—a slight majority of whom practice the Buddhist or Shinto religions of their ancestors—are the most respected and successfully integrated of all racial minorities in the United States and have gone on to hold the highest positions in American political, military, academic and business life.
So perhaps it is time for the French-Algerian youth to demonstrate their patriotism—despite the discrimination they have endured—and volunteer to serve in a Franco-Arab Regiment of the French Army on the Syrian-Iraqi front to play a part in compensating for the Arab states who have failed to lead of a real war against ISIS—the so-called, perversely named Islamic State.
Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer) , New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.
Cross posted on Al Arabiya News